Find out what Australian researchers are publishing in palliative care 

The following lists palliative care research primarily conducted by Australian research groups. The list is based on application of the CareSearch search filter for palliative care to identify articles held within the PubMed database and corresponding to the strongest evidence. Articles have been selected based on relevance and new articles are added on a weekly basis.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, the aim is to keep the community informed by providing a snapshot of recent research findings and planned studies in the Australian setting.

25 October 2021

Hopeful dying? The meanings and practice of hope in palliative care family meetings

Kirby E, Broom A, MacArtney J, Lewis S, Good P.

Hope can carry considerable allure for people facing imminent mortality and for those who care for them. Yet, how hope is variously and relationally (re)produced within end-of-life care settings, remains under-researched. In this study, we aimed to better understand hope as it circulates within palliative care, drawing on video recorded family meetings and pre- and post-meeting qualitative interviews, within two hospitals in Queensland, Australia. Our findings highlight family meetings as an important site for articulations of hope and hopefulness. The results illustrate how hope is recalibrated within the transition to and through palliative care, the tensions between hope and futility, and the work of hope in discussions of goals and expectations. Through our analysis we argue that hopefulness within family meetings, and in palliative care more broadly, is collectively produced and opens up discourses of hope to the lived experience of terminality. Attending to the nuances of hope, including moving beyond the determinative (hope for more life/hope for a quick death), can elucidate the possibilities and problems of the collective negotiation of hope at the end of life, including how hope can be drawn on to express support and solidarity.

18 October 2021

Access to palliative care: the primacy of public health partnerships and community participation

Mills J, Abel J, Kellehear A, Patel M. 

No abstract available

18 October 2021

Opioid-sparing effects of ketorolac in palliative care patients receiving opioids for chronic cancer-related pain: A systematic literature review

Butcher B, Hutchings E, Fazekas B, Clark K, Rowett D, Currow D.

Background: Standard of care in treatment of cancer-related pain involves opioids in combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). Ketorolac, a NSAID, has demonstrated opioid-sparing effects in other clinical settings.

Aim: This systematic literature review investigated ketorolac's opioid-sparing effects in patients receiving opioids for chronic, cancer-related pain.

Design: The primary outcome was total daily dose of opioids. Secondary outcomes included frequency of opioid use, use and frequency of 'rescue' medication and adverse events. Outcomes were described, and meta-analysed where possible. PROSPERO registration CRD42019130894.

Data sources: Articles included original research, from any study phase or methodology, published in English in a peer-reviewed journal or conference between 1990 and 2020; included subjects >18 years; had chronic cancer-related pain and described the use of opioid-sparing effect of ketorolac.

Results: Nine articles were included. While there was significant heterogeneity, ketorolac may have an opioid-sparing effect, with significant reductions in total daily dose of morphine observed in a single randomised controlled trial (SMD -4.30 mg, 95% CI -5.36 to -3.25), but the changes in the before and after studies were not statistically significant -0.46 mg (95% CI -1.14 to 0.22). Ketorolac was associated with greater likelihood of complete pain relief, but the data were heterogeneous. Insufficient data were available to analyse frequency of opioid use, or rescue medication requirements.

Conclusions: Given the heterogeneity of the data, adequately powered, randomised controlled trials are required to establish any opioid-sparing effect of ketorolac. For patients not responding to conventional pain management, ketorolac may have a role in treatment augmentation.

11 October 2021

The conscious state of the dying patient: An integrative review

O'Connor T, Paterson C, Gibson J, Strickland K.

Objectives: The cognitive state of the dying in the last days of life may deteriorate, resulting in a reduced ability to communicate their care needs. Distressing symptoms, physical and existential, may go unrecognized and untreated. The objectives of this integrative review were to systematically interrogate the literature to determine the changing conscious state of dying adults and to identify changes in their care needs.

Methods: An integrative review protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020160475). The World Health Organization definition of palliative care informed the review. CINAHL, MEDLINE (OVID), Scopus, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, and PubMed were searched from inception to October 2019 using search strategies for each database. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied. Methodological quality was appraised using the Joanna Briggs Institute Checklist for the Case Series appraisal tool. Extracted data were synthesized using a narrative approach.

Results: Of 5,136 papers identified, 11 quantitative case series studies were included. Six themes were identified: conscious state and change over time, awareness, pain, absence of holistic care, the voiceless patient, and signs and symptoms of dying.

Significance of results: In the last days of life, the physical and conscious state of the dying patient declines, resulting in an inability to express their care needs. Dignity in dying and freedom from pain and suffering are both an imperative and a human right; and unvoiced care needs can result in unnecessary suffering and distress. This review revealed that little is known about how healthcare professionals assess holistic care needs at this vulnerable time. Although much has been written about palliative and end-of-life care, the assessment of care needs when patients are no longer able to voice their own needs has largely been ignored, with little attention from clinical, educational, or research perspectives. This gap in evidence has important implications for the dying and their families.

11 October 2021

Use of traditional therapies in palliative care for Australian First Nations peoples: An integrative review

Rooney EJ, Johnson A, Jeong SY, Wilson RL.

Aims and objectives: To conduct an integrative review of the literature to understand how the incorporation of traditional therapies affect First Nations people's utilisation of palliative care services.

Background: First Nations peoples face many barriers related to accessing and utilising specialised health services such as palliative care. Whilst culturally appropriate care has been shown to improve these outcomes, there is little evidence regarding how this may be achieved.

Design: Integrative review.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted using electronic databases CINAHL, Joanna Briggs, Medline, Scopus, ScienceDirect InformitHealth and ProQuest between the years of 2005 − 2021 databases were searched for papers with full text available and published in English. Papers were included if they were primary-based research and focused on the topics of the use of traditional therapies in a palliative care context by First Nations persons. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme principles were used to assess the methodological quality of the selected articles.

Results: Seven studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. The review included six qualitative studies and one quantitative study. From these studies, five themes were identified in the literature: supporting a holistic approach, developing culturally appropriate care, conflict within a Western medical model, regulatory issues, and geographical barriers.

Conclusion: There is a dearth of current literature available discussing the utilization of traditional therapies in palliative care. From the literature analysed, the benefits of including traditional therapies are overall positive, however, there are barriers including conflict with the Western model of medicine and regulation. More research is required in the provision of traditional therapies in palliative care.

Relevance to clinical practice: The incorporation of traditional medicines within a palliative care setting could help nurses provide holistic and culturally appropriate care, especially in rural and remote areas where they make up the majority of the healthcare force.

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Last updated 19 August 2021